Wednesday, June 27, 2018


At the ripe young age of 47, as menopause came on, and 10 stubborn pounds came with it, I wanted – no, I needed – something drastic to help me feel better.  I’d heard about this thing called CrossFit.  Yeah, I know, people who CrossFit love to talk about CrossFit.  But *this* is not about CrossFit (entirely) – that’s a post for a different day.  This is how, at the age of 47, enamored with my new-found sport and the tattooed hard-bodies I worked out with, I got my first ink (and then another and then, technically, another.  Don’t tell my mom!)

I’ve thought about getting a tattoo for many years.  There were many reasons why I couldn’t bring myself to do it:  Would “society” look down on me?  What would my friends think?  Would it hurt? (I HATE needles!) Can I afford it?  Will it look trashy?  Would it look unprofessional at work?  What would I get and where would I put it?  What would my family think? 

And there was one reason why I should do it:  I REALLY wanted one!

A friend of mine got one when we were in our 20’s.  She surprised us all, when, at her bachelorette party, she stood up in the middle of the restaurant and dropped her pants!  As a surprise to her husband, she’d gotten a heart with his name scrawled across it, which was scrawled across her gluteus maximus.  Given that we all came from very traditional and very conservative backgrounds, I always admired her for being *that girl*. 

Once on a family vacation, a conversation over dinner turned to tattoos.  My nephew had gotten one.  I was encouraged by him sharing it with our family.

A 20-something friend at the gym had gotten one and said she was going for another.  And bonus!  The tattoo studio she liked was having a Black Friday Sale!  It didn’t take much convincing.  So, while everyone else was headed to Best Buy and WalMart in the wee hours on the day after Thanksgiving, we were headed to Austin – to get some bargain-priced ink!  Yep – you read that right – I got my first tattoo on a Black Friday Sale. 

I still wasn’t sure what I wanted.  I had always thought I would get an infinity symbol in honor of my all-time favorite band, Journey.  I surprised even myself when I strayed from that idea and decided on something to show my love and loyalty for my alma mater, The University of Texas:  a Longhorn head on my shoulder.

I don’t remember it hurting that bad.  It was more ticklish than anything.  At least that’s what my sub-conscious chooses to remember – kinda like having a baby (when you choose to have another and then another).  Freshly tainted … or rather painted … we celebrated with a meal at Magnolia Pancake Haus.  

I returned home with care instructions for my husband; after all, I could not reach that part of my body.  He was so supportive (that’s also another post for another day).  He thought it was sexy, he loved it and still does!  The following Monday, I strutted into my CrossFit box wearing a tank top – I wanted everyone to see my new ink.  I was officially part of the club (or as some non-CrossFitters call it, the cult).  And no, not every CrossFitter has a tattoo.

But I was still embarrassed to show my (non-CrossFitter) friends and family (and I've never shared a CrossFit picture on FB that showed my bare right shoulder either!)  In fact, I’m pretty sure there are still family members who don’t know I have one, let alone, multiple tattoos.  Of course, if they're reading this, they know now.

We’d host pool parties and I’d wear a t-shirt and not get into the pool.  I celebrated the 50th birthday of one of my college buddies in Cancun; of course, I had to get into a swimsuit – I think she was shocked – and she took pictures!  It wasn’t until my closest group of friends and I celebrated our 50th birthdays in Destin, when I put on a bathing suit in front of the five of them.  My mom spotted it one day when I was at their house.  With a little smirk, she simply asked, “How long have you had that?” and nothing else was said.  To this day, she’s never mentioned it again.  I still don’t think my dad knows.

And I’m still self-conscious about it. 

Fast forward a couple of years and I decide on a second tattoo.  To combine my love of Disney with my love of Journey, I want a Mickey-head intertwined with an infinity symbol on the inner part of my heel.  I scour the internet (mostly Pinterest – who knew?!) to get some ideas.  Having found an artist, the appointment is set for six weeks out; I interpret this to mean he’s incredibly popular and must be a gifted artist.  

The day I got the work done, the artist suggested we change the design up a bit and went on to explain why he thinks it would be better if we did it this (new) way.  I liked his sketch well enough.  "Okay", I say, "you're the artist."  A friend went with and held my hand.  Literally.  It hurt like hell.  Because of my dislike for needles, I couldn’t look.  But when it was done, I hated it.  Literally from the first moment I looked at it, I hated it.  On the wall in the shop, there was a saw with the words “Tattoo Removal” painted on it – I was tempted to use it!  My friend tried to console me over margaritas.  She didn’t say how horrible it looked, but I could see it in her face.  

It was still flip-flop season, but if I was going out with friends, or going to visit my parents, I’d wear closed-toe shoes.  When I did dare to venture out wearing flip-flops, I put a band aid over my ink.  When I finally decided to go out sans band aid, I found I would constantly turn that foot inward to hide the hideous and now permanent blue blob that graced my body.  My self-consciousness over having a tattoo was now equal to the embarrassment I felt over this newest one.

The “artist” tried to correct it by adding some white ink and lightening it up.  It didn’t really help much.  And by now, hiding my foot was habit.

Within a matter of months, I decide to have it removed using laser treatments.  For a cost of more than three times what I paid for the tattoo, they think they can forever rid my body of the blue blob.   Five treatments later and that thing is STILL on my foot. I signed up for five more.  And that thing is STILL on my foot. 

Tired of the pain and suffering I was enduring with the laser removal treatments (not to mention the after-shocks and the blistering), I decided to look for a cover-up artist and see if I couldn’t make it all better.  Another friend knew a guy.  While my love of Mickey and Journey has not diminished, I wanted something totally different – to erase the memory of that ink stain forever.  
We agreed on a design (I’ve always loved the ocean) and he did a fantastic job!  I loved it and had zero problems stepping out in my flip flops (just not around family or close friends). 
But then … most of the ink came off (it’s not supposed to do that!).  He touched it up … and it faded again!  The laser treatments had damaged my skin beyond what either he or I could imagine.  
With his third, and likely final, attempt, we timed it so that I could live in my flip flops for a couple of weeks, hopefully giving the ink a better chance to stick without a shoe rubbing against it.  It’s already peeling, but at least there’s more ink left than the previous two attempts.  And at least what’s there is better than before, if a bit faded. 

During this time, I’ve gone out several times – both with friends who CrossFit and friends who don’t.  I called one of my (non-CrossFitter) friends and forewarned her about my tattoo and told her how self-conscious I was feeling; her response, “I can’t wait to see it!  And don’t worry about what others think!  I bet no one will even say anything!”  And guess what?  No one said a word.  Instead, they were busy admiring the shade of nail polish I had on my toes (it's a lovely shade of lavender, yes?)! 

That’s not entirely true – my CrossFit friends all agreed the tat is cool. 

I recognize that people have opinions about tattoos and those opinions can be very strong.  And they may even have opinions about people with tattoos (I know I sure do – when I see someone with a tat on their face or when I see a particularly artful piece.)  I recognize they’re not for everyone.  But I kinda like mine.

I’ve found that with age, I’ve become more adventurous.  I’ve found a confidence that eluded me for the better part of my life.  I’m becoming more comfortable, literally, in my own skin.

In a couple of weeks, we're hosting a family get-together, a pool party.  And you know what?  I'm going to wear my flip flops.

1 comment:

We stop growing when we stop learning. If you have some useful feedback for me, please share! I'm always looking for ways to improve! Of course, if you like what you've just read, I'd love to hear that too!